Do you have your students complete a teacher/classroom survey during the year? In my county, our students complete the survey in the middle of the year and again at the end. If used correctly, these surveys give valuable information, allowing the teacher to get an insight on student perspective. In grades 2-5, we ask our students the following questions: (Our K-1 students use a slightly different survey.)
- My teacher makes me feel like he/she cares about me.
- I am happy when I am in my classroom.
- My teacher expects me to do my best.
- My classmates’ behavior slows down my learning.
- I know what I should be doing and learning.
- My classroom is neat, everything has a place, and things are easy to find.
- I am comfortable talking to my teacher about my problems.
I enter these questions into a Google Form, which will compile the data for me as they submit their responses (compiling the data is the hard part for me). Each of the prompts asks for a “yes” or “no” response and allows for the student to add a comment if they desire. Students DO NOT include their names (unless they choose to) and therefore can leave their honest response.
Before completing the survey I talk with my students about the importance of being thoughtful and honest. These questions are meant to help our classroom environment and community continue to grow.
Now, how do you actually use this data? My answer is simple. First of all, you need to know that you might get answers and feedback that surprises you. Get out of the mindset that your students just circled answers and that the information is useless. It’s easy to try to get trapped in the process of trying to talk yourself out of responsibility for the negative answers. The truth is, we ARE responsible for those answers, and it’s those answers that give us the opportunity to improve our classroom and our teaching!
How? Simple. I talk to my students about the data in general. I walk through each question and response trend and we talk about it. I tell them my own reflections, my ideas to help improve the response the next time, and I ask them for their suggestions. For the question responses that we really need to focus on, I make an anchor chart. By doing this one simple thing, I’ve noticed a progressing trend over the years in how my students feel about our classroom and myself.
This December, our only problem area just so happened to be question four, “My classmates’ behavior slows down my learning.” I wasn’t surprised by this, but I was surprised at how many students said yes. You see, classroom and behavior management is something I feel really good about. So when 30% of my students responded yes, I knew it was time to really get their thoughts and suggestions.
I decided it was time for a goal (it is January) and an action plan. I told them that it was going to be a goal we share, and so we divided our action plan into three parts: the teacher can, we can, and I can. Just like I described earlier, I talked about my own thoughts and my own ideas, but we focused more on theirs. The picture of the anchor chart below is what the students wanted on the chart.
I have to tell you, I was surprised when the students asked me to start using the “1,2,3 Magic” warning and behavior plan again. I love this plan, but I had actually gotten away from it with this group because I didn’t feel like I needed to talk to them about their behaviors that often anymore. What they said they liked about it, though, was that it’s a silent way to remind a student about what they are doing that is distracting. They like this plan because I can use my eyes and a hand signal, while still instructing. Without our conversation, I honestly wouldn’t have thought to do this with them again. This discussion also allowed the students to voice their concerns and frustrations to the whole group. Without calling names, they were able to voice the distracting behaviors that bothered them the most. And some of the students who engage in those behaviors actually made comments about they didn’t realize that behavior distracted their peers. That’s a WIN-WIN for all!
It’s only been a few days since we had this discussion, but I have to tell you that it has already made a difference in my classes. I think, honestly, just taking the opportunity to be real with them, admit my flaws and failures, and give them a voice, showing that we are truly a team, is what makes the biggest difference. If we’re doing this together, we can make mistakes together, and we can improve together.
If you’ve read this post and you do conduct student surveys with your class, I encourage you to discuss your data with your students. I promise, you won’t regret it! If you haven’t used student surveys with your class, but now you’re wondering what your students might say, I encourage you to start with the few questions above. And as always, if you’d like more information, or have your own stories and suggestions for how you use student survey data, please share it with me via email or comment.